Becoming Zen.

Via Blake Wilson
on Feb 24, 2011
get elephant's newsletter

I don’t study Zen to become Zen. I study Zen to become myself.

There seems to be a some debate about how one should or should not behave when they start studying Zen. It may possibly come from the eightfold path.

Wait. Allow me to back up a second here. For those who don’t know, Guatama Buddha come to a certain realization which states that:

  1. life is suffering,
  2. suffering comes from attachment,
  3. suffering can go buh-bye,
  4. the eightfold path is how you give suffering the bird.

Or something like that. These are called the Four Noble Truths. The fourth truth mentions the Eightfold Path which is:

  1. right view
  2. right intention
  3. right speech
  4. right action
  5. right livelihood
  6. right effort
  7. right mindfulness
  8. right concentration

I realize that most of you have probably, at least once, seen or heard about these. But considering I had to look them up, I figured a good number of you wouldn’t have it memorized (although I have no doubt that some of you spent a good amount of time with your Good Buddhist flash cards studying these lists).

So there it is, in black and white. There are “right” things to do which necessitates the fact that there are “wrong” things to do. Do the right things and you will alleviate suffering. Do the wrong things… not so much.

So what are these “right” things? I have no doubt that there are tons of books and blogs written on the subject. I have no doubt that if we sat down here, we could come up with a list for at least 1-5. And as fun as that might be, it would be missing the point.

All of these “rights” aren’t pointing to some great law or rule that one, as a Buddhist, must follow. What is meant is that in each interaction, in each moment, we must fulfill our roll. “Right view” isn’t the view that a Buddhist should have. It’s the view that you do have. “Right speech” means your speech. “Right livelihood” means your livelihood.

You will notice that, when you look at it this way, the goal isn’t to become a Buddhist. The goal is to become you. There really is no need to study what a Buddhist should or should not do. What is of utmost importance is you discovering you and your function in this world.

Zen is about becoming who you are, the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s not about becoming Zen.

Or not. I could be full of shit.


About Blake Wilson

Blake is a law librarian and a member of the Kwan Um School of Zen, sitting with the Kansas Zen Center in Lawrence, Kansas. Blake is way into g33k culture which, as he sees it, easily includes Zen, and is willing to share with you his struggles and observations. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and


16 Responses to “Becoming Zen.”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Les Elephants and blakethegeek, Red Fox. Red Fox said: Becoming Zen. […]

  2. YesuDas says:

    "The glory of God is the person fully alive." (St. Irenaeus) All very plausible, but I wonder: is "right speech" always "my speech"? Can't one express one's right view in the wrong way? I may really believe that my position trumps someone else's, but will it really do to tell them, therefore, to suck it? Because I can say some really shitty things in the sincere belief that I am right, but I almost always regret it later.

  3. BenRiggs says:

    What if "right" in this sense just means natural… In other words, what if speech, action, and effort (+ all the rests) speaks itself, acts itself, exerts itself just as the heart beats itself and the lungs breathe themselves? But this naturalness or spontaneity is only expressed or manifest in a moment where i have forgotten myself?

  4. Zarathustra says:

    "Right" in that it feels right?

    Thanks for this! Bravissimo!

  5. Rebecca says:

    I'm with Ben on this one- and also, if one is expressing "right"- becoming the "right" one you are to be- the point is, I think, that then you are expressing yourself naturally, and it would be difficult to express one's view the wrong way. Regardless, ditto, thanks, bravissimo!

  6. […] the pursuit. We rediscover, rather, what we already know, uncover what was already there—what Zen calls your original face, what Hinduism calls your true self. But we have to get real still, so […]

  7. […] the pursuit. We rediscover, rather, what we already know, uncover what was already there—what Zen calls your original face, what Hinduism calls your true self. But we have to get real still, so […]

  8. […] Being Buddhist is definitely where it’s at. Bonus video: Illest Buddhist. […]

  9. Sarah says:

    I LOVE THIS!!!

Leave a Reply